Android 2021: A year in review

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We made it done different year, and Android was determination by our broadside for amended oregon worse. Jack Wallen discusses a fewer highs and a fewer lows of the twelvemonth that brought america Android 12 and Material You.

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Image: sdx15/Shutterstock

The twelvemonth is astir implicit … and, wow, did it alert by. It seems lone yesterday I was penning astir the 2020 twelvemonth successful reappraisal and present I am, different twelvemonth older and different twelvemonth … older.

I could accidental the aforesaid holds existent for Android. It's different twelvemonth (and release) older, but has it go immoderate wiser than it already was? I privation to leap close successful and say, "Yes!" but I'm not 100% definite I can. After all, the level inactive faces immoderate of the aforesaid aged problems it has for a while.

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But it's not each bad. In fact, 2021 brought astir immoderate of the brightest spots successful the past of the OS. Accompanying that brightness, it didn't truly endure immoderate large sidelines (major being the keyword). Although it stumbled a fewer times, Android seemed to person a nett affirmative twelvemonth successful the end. 

Let's dive successful and look astatine a fewer of the highlights and immoderate of the lowlights for the twelvemonth the clip forgot.

Android 12

We person to commencement this retired with the 12th iteration of the Android operating system. Although 1 of the astir important changes to the level volition get its ain subhead (more connected that successful a bit), determination was truthful overmuch betterment going connected with the OS: This merchandise coiled up (for many, including myself) to beryllium the champion instrumentality connected Android to person ever been released.

The caller features added to Android 12 included scrolling screenshots, AppSearch, One-Handed mode, affluent contented insertion, overview suggestions, much motion controls, haptic feedback with audio, unused apps, Game Mode, HEVC media transcoding, AVIF representation support, multi-channel audio, optimizations for non-standard displays, cosmopolitan splash screens, Privacy Dashboard, mic and camera indicators, mic and camera termination switches, approximate determination support and Android Compute Core. Another precise important betterment successful Android 12 was that the developers and designers yet enactment successful immoderate effort to hole the tegument code problems for the camera. With this latest release, non-white faces volition spot much close representations of darker tegument colour and earthy hair. This was an important (and necessary) measurement guardant for Google.

All of these caller additions travel unneurotic to marque for a faster, much reliable and unafraid experience. But overall, each 1 of these additions was overshadowed by 1 peculiar change.

Material You

Without a doubt, Material You was the header successful the Android 12 show. This caller Android UI has been agelong overdue and, wow, did it ever impress. Material You was not conscionable a reskinning of the aged interface but made is specified that your UI would beryllium wholly unsocial to your phone. How? Material You worked with dynamic highlights for UI elements, utilizing colors from your existent location surface wallpaper. Say, for instance, you had an representation of a Mars scenery connected your location screen. Your item colors mightiness beryllium rust, brownish and red.

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But it's not conscionable astir the colors. Material You is simply a implicit redesign of the interface. Widgets are amended looking, the notification surface is acold easier to interact with, navigation is better, animations are smoother (and much interesting), everything connected the show is much readable and (overall) it conscionable looks much modern.

Pixel 6

The merchandise of the Google Pixel 6 was much-anticipated. Although the Pixel 5 was a coagulated introduction successful the line, it ever felt underpowered and couldn't legitimately beryllium considered a flagship phone. Given the Pixel enactment was ever meant to service arsenic a mode to amusement disconnected what each Android could do, the 5th iteration failed astatine that task.

Google knew this and had to bring the Pixel backmost to prominence.

And, for the astir part, it did. The Pixel 6 is simply a superb instrumentality (with a fewer issues). It's powerful, beauteous and the camera is astonishing.

But it wasn't (and hasn't been) each unicorns and lollipops for the Pixel device. First, the merchandise was a disaster. The lead-up to the large time was beauteous overmuch devoid of marketing. And erstwhile the large time came, the quality to really acquisition a instrumentality was marred by non-functioning buying carts, website errors and zero accountability. This was an unacceptable nonaccomplishment connected Google's portion and caused a batch of radical to miss retired connected purchasing the latest Pixel phone.

For those who did negociate to implicit the acquisition (I got lucky), everything started retired great. But past small issues started to appear. The biggest for maine was a repetition contented from the Pixel 4. I'd beryllium successful the mediate of a telephone telephone and, retired of the blue, the idiosyncratic connected the different extremity of the telephone couldn't perceive me. Or, adjacent worse, I'd spot a telephone and the idiosyncratic who answered couldn't perceive me. No substance what I tried, I couldn't resoluteness the issue. I started to judge it was a hardware issue, truthful I returned the phone. No luck. Another instrumentality … nary luck. It wasn't until Google issued a bundle update that the occupation was fixed.

That contented is back. So acold it's happened with astir 10% of my telephone calls. The lone hole astatine the infinitesimal is to reboot the device. I'm not going to instrumentality this telephone due to the fact that my past acquisition tells maine that is simply a dormant end. But it does marque it precise wide that Google needs to retrieve that smartphones bash inactive see the connection "phone," truthful they request to absorption a spot much Q&A connected that extremity of the equation.

Malware

Malware. I shouldn't person to accidental different word. But I will. Thing is, each operating system, hardware and app shaper understands they unrecorded successful a changeless authorities of 2 steps down those creating malicious bundle and processing caller attacks. 

This is ne'er going to change. As agelong arsenic a instrumentality is online, it's vulnerable. And Android is not immune to that. Do a speedy hunt for Android malware and you'll find plentifulness of articles outlining the dangers. But there's 1 happening astatine the halfway of the contented … applications. I've made it a precedence to (at slightest doubly a year) punctual Android users of the dangers they look erstwhile installing applications. Once upon a time, I would lone pass users against installing from third-party sources. Now, however, I connection that informing without the third-party bit. If you instal an exertion connected your Android phone, there's ever a risk. 

With 2021 we saw malware specified arsenic Joker, GriftHorse, FakeDolphin, GinMaster, ExoBot, Android Police Virus, FakeInst, BlackRock, OpFake, BaseBridge, KungFu and Ghost Push. The database of apps that contained malware was adjacent longer, including All Good PDF Scanner, Buzz, Blue Scanner, Paper Doc Scanner, Care Message, WiFi Password Cracker, Desire Translate, SecureIt, Axgle, Direct Messenger, Tangram App Lock, Wallpaper Girls, Hummingbird PDF Converter - Photo to PDF, AppleProtect, Meticulous Scanner, Idea Security, Unique Keyboard, Talent Photo Editor - Blur Focus, Mint Leaf Message-Your Private Message, Shortcut Name, One Sentence Translator - Multifunction Translator, Part Message, Private SMS, Style Photo Collage, System Update, Auxiliary Message, Element Scanner, Free CamScanner, Go Messages, Super Message, Super SMS and Travel Wallpapers. 

Foldable Phones

I could person sworn, astatine the extremity of 2020, that foldable phones would person vanished from the market. They didn't. In fact, Samsung proved the foldable telephone could enactment with the Z Fold3. Not lone was it a precise well-designed instrumentality but it was besides durable, water-resistant, offered dual 120Hz displays and showed disconnected the existent powerfulness of multitasking connected an Android device. 

The large downfall was that the lofty terms tag ($1,799 upon release) would support it retired of the hands of mean users.  

Even so, 2021 proved that foldable phones are not conscionable a possibility, but a world that volition not beryllium going distant immoderate clip soon. Maybe 2022 volition beryllium the twelvemonth the foldable becomes much communal than astir of america ever imagined.

And determination you person it, Android successful reappraisal for 2021. It wasn't the champion of times, but it surely wasn't the worst of times. And fixed however brainsick the satellite is these days, I'm calling that a win.

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